I began wondering exactly how incompetent Ponta’s reign as prime minister (April 2012 to the present) has been and so began compiling a brief list, which led me to the creation of the video you can see below. I have to warn you, it’s quite staggering when you see it laid out all at once.
The video is entirely in Romanian but if you’re watching this at work, be aware that the word “fuck” is used several times.
Although the video moves along rather quickly, I still couldn’t fit in all the scandals and resignations. Therefore I’ve prepared a comprehensive reading guide:
Ponta’s first Justice Minister was Titus Corlatean. He had to be switched over to the Foreign Ministry on August 6, 2012 after Andrei Marga turned out to be utterly incompetent (see below).
Monica Pivniceru was Ponta’s next choice but first she had to go through an elaborate procedure to be retired as a judge because of the inherent conflict of interest. She became the Justice Minister on August 23, 2012 and resigned on March 27, 2013 in order to become a judge on the Constitutional Court (a position she still holds).
The current Justice Minister is Robert Cazanciuc.
Ponta’s first Defense Minister was Corneliu Dobritoiu. He resigned in December 2012 after a court case was brought against him for illegally buying a house at below-market prices. Also in December 2012, his son-in-law was convicted of electoral fraud in Cluj after paying people to vote against Basescu in the presidential recall referendum of 2012.
The current Defense Minister is Mircea Dusa (December 2012-present), who once claimed Romania’s airspace was “daily” being infringed by foreign aircraft but deigned to identify where those aircraft were coming from or from which country.
Ponta’s first Education Minister was Ioan Mang. He lasted a matter of a week after it was found out that he had plagiarized numerous academic articles.
Ponta then floated the idea of nominating Corina Dumitrescu. Besides having a massive conflict of interest (she heads an organization that represents for-profit universities), she was also found to have inflated her CV with false accomplishments and was made a laughingstock after the press found numerous misspellings on her CV.
For exactly one week (May 7-15), Liviu Pop became the Education Minister. He then used rule changes to protect Ponta from plagiarism charges (see below).
From May 15-July 2, the Education Minister was Ecaterina Andronescu. She too was found to have plagiarized numerous academic articles.
From July 2 to the present the Education Minister is Remus Pricopie.
Ponta’s first Minister of the Interior was Ioan Rus. He was forced to resign on August 6, 2012 after badly mishandling the failed referendum to remove Basescu.
Ioan Rus was replaced by Mircea Dusa, who was switched over to the Defense Ministry in December 2012.
From December 2012 to January 2014 the Interior Minister was Radu Stroe. He was forced to resign after the Frozen Tears debacle in which the survivors of a crashed plane could not be found for more than six hours.
Currently there is no Interior Minister as vice-PM Gabriel Oprea is holding the position until a replacement can be found.
Ponta’s first Tourism Minister was Eduard Hellvig. He resigned in December 2012 to pursue a career in the European Parliament. He narrowly escaped a prosecution case due to his numerous business conflicts of interest, particularly with Dan Mihalache, who was forced to resign from two different government posts, one in December 2012 (adjunct secretary general of the government) and one in April 2013 (Autorităţii pentru Administrarea Activelor Statului).
From December 2012 to the present, the Tourism Minister is Maria Grapini. She is expected to resign in the near future in order to run for elections in the European Parliament.
She is also linked to the scandal of MP Gheorghe Coman, who was caught red-handed in the act of taking a bribe. There is at least one phone recording where Coman suggests that his connections with Grapini will get him out of trouble.
Ponta’s first and only Agricultural Minister has been Daniel Constantin. However, it has been noted since the beginning that he is personally debt in debt to Dan Voiculescu (a leading member of Ponta’s USL coalition) and that Voiculescu had several ongoing court cases in which the Agriculture Department was the victim, a clear conflict of interest.
More recently, another intercepted phone call by Gheorghe Coman (see above) suggested that Coman would be using his connections with Constantin to get him out of trouble.
Ponta’s first and only Labor Minister has been Mariana Campeanu. In September 2013 she was famously quoted as telling young people in Romania “not to bother” with trying to get a high school diploma or a master’s degree as more “practical” careers were a better choice.
Ponta’s first Health Minister was Vasile Cepoi. He was forced to resign in October 2012 after he was implicated in several scandals, including multiple conflicts of interest and embezzling European Union money.
Raed Arafat was the interim Health Minister for two months until he was replaced by Eugen Gheorghe Nicolaescu, who still holds the position.
Ponta’s first Culture Minister was Mircea Diaconu. He was forced to resign on June 29, 2012 after being convicted of influence trafficking when he used his position to acquire a lucrative job at a state-run theater for his wife.
From June 29, 2012 to December 21, 2012 the Culture Minister was Puiu Hasotti. After having his car smashed by protestors, angry at several of his decisions involving the ICR (see below), he stated that the job “wasn’t worth it” to focus on moving up in the ranks of his PNL party.
From December 2012 to the present, the Culture Minister has been Daniel Constantin Barbu.
Ponta’s first Foreign Minister was Andrei Marga, who proved to be such an embarrassment that he was removed from office on August 6, 2012 and replaced by Titus Corlatean (who has held the post ever since).
Marga was then thrown a bone and installed as president of the Romanian Cultural Institute (ICR). The ICR became a touchstone of controversy when Ponta’s government used legal trickery in June 2012 to remove it from under the president’s jurisdiction and place it directly under the control of the senate, leading to a global backlash.
In a bizarre statement when he was head of the ICR, Marga declared that the heating radiator was Romania’s “greatest cultural achievement” despite the fact that radiators were not even invented in Romania. Marga was removed from that office on June 17, 2013 and has since declared he is retired from politics.
Ponta’s first Transportation Minister was Ovidiu Silaghi, despite numerous accusations that Silaghi had been involved in crooked business deals. Silaghi has several pending DNA (corruption) court cases and has resigned from parliament to focus on being elected to the European Parliament.
After the parliamentary elections in December 2012, Silaghi was replaced by Relu Fenechiu. From December 21 to July 14, Fenechiu presided over one of the most important privatization deals in Romania, the sale of CFR Marfa (Freight) to the private company GFR, owned by Gruia Stoica, despite numerous irregularities. The sale was later overturned for technical reasons and the failure to privatize CFR Marfa has become a major stumbling block with the IMF.
Fenechiu was forced to resign after being convicted on numerous counts of fraud. Ponta then attempted to replace him with Silaghi but President Basescu refused to consider the nomination and so Ramona Manescu was chosen instead (August 2013 to the present).
Ponta originally named Victor Alistar to become the Minister of Governmental Strategy but had to withdraw the nomination after it was pointed out that Alistar had previously been convicted of influence trafficking and was legally barred from holding political office.
Alistar is currently the head of Transparency International Romania.
Despite claiming it is all a “frame-up” by President Basescu, revelations in the journal Nature proved that Victor Ponta extensively plagiarized (over 130 pages) his doctoral thesis. Despite the University of Bucharest (who awarded him his doctorate) declaring that he had plagiarized, Ponta (with help from Liviu Pop) changed the rules on determining plagiarism and maintains to this day that his doctorate in jurisprudence is still valid.
Two other books that Ponta has authored were also found to contain large chunks of plagiarized text.
In an attempt to get rid of his political foe (President Basescu), Ponta’s government organized a referendum in the summer of 2012. Using every legal (and in some cases illegal) trick in the book, including expanding voting hours, allowing people to vote at mobile voting stations and trying to shoehorn in a revision of the Constitution via an emergency government ordinance to require only 50% of the votes (instead of 50% of the voters) to remove Basescu from office, the referendum badly failed, costing the taxpayers approximately 55 million euros.
No need to go into further detail about it here because I already wrote extensively on the subject.
It should be noted that the Avocatul Poporului, which was mandated by Barroso and the EU to be held by a neutral person, is still in the hands of the ruling USL.
Romania was originally scheduled to be included in the visa-free Schengen Area in early 2012. Due to a sense of widespread corruption and lax border controls, several EU members have continually blocked Romania’s accession.
Romania is actually legally required to join the Schengen Area but it is not seen as likely that they will be considered capable of doing so this year.
Ponta’s close friend and mentor (and former head of the PSD, Ponta’s party), Adrian Nastase, was convicted twice and sent to prison on two separate cases. Ponta declared publicly that Nastase’s conviction was a political frame-up, which caused the head of the ICCJ (Romania’s highest criminal court), the Assistant Secretary of State (see here) and others to rebuke Ponta’s interference with judicial autonomy.
Ponta’s statements were also included (albeit indirectly) in yet another stern rebuke via the latest MCV progress report from the European Union.
Ponta also stated that Nastase’s conviction was similar to that of Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a claim that is utterly preposterous and without merit.
After exhaustive and extensive legal trickery to avoid prosecution, Dan Voiculescu was finally convicted of money laundering, corruption and influence trafficking and was sentenced to five years in prison in September 2013. Voiculescu currently remains free as he appeals this conviction.
Voiculescu is the de facto head of the PC party, part of the ruling USL coalition, and owns a large media empire which helps prop up the Ponta government.
As I wrote about extensively here, Ponta skipped town to allow his government to pass midnight legislation exempting them from oversight by two of the anti-corruption bodies (DNA and ANI).
Although this legislation was ultimately rejected as unconstitutional by the CCR, the attempt to circumvent key controls over members of parliament earned Romania a stern rebuke in the latest MCV progress report.
In January 2014, a government (MAI) plane crashed in the Apuseni Mountains. Despite numerous calls to 112 (the emergency number) by the survivors, the plane was not located for more than six hours and two members of the crew died and a third is still in the hospital.
While the case is still being investigated, it is clear that widespread government incompetence is to blame for the delay in finding the downed plane. The Interior Minister (Stroe) and two other government officials have been forced to resign as a result of this debacle.
By my count, a total of 14 ministers have either resigned or been replaced, one of whom (Fenechiu) was convicted on criminal charges while in office. Ponta himself has personally been required to become an interim minister three times (Justice, Transportation and Interior).
In contrast, a total of two ministers were forced to resign or be replaced when Emil Boc was prime minister (Dec 2008-Feb 2012) and two when Calin Popescu-Tariceanu was prime minister (Dec 2004-Dec 2008) for a grand total of four ministers replaced in eight years. Ponta’s government is less than two years old (his cabinet was formed in May 2012).
Ponta has been globally condemned for his plagiarism, his mishandling of the ICR, for his 2012 coup, his government’s attempt to award themselves “super immunity” and Ponta has personally been instructed on more than one occasion by Manuel Barroso (president of the European Commission) to adhere to the rule of law.
Domestically, his government has badly mishandled the “Frozen Tears” debacle as well as the 2012 presidential recall referendum and it is only through the relative weakness of the opposition parties that his ruling USL coalition is able to hang onto power at all.
AND NOW YOU KNOW!